Malaysian govt defends action in Web censorship

Ministry says MCMC has been "transparent, fair and balanced" and condemns allegations multimedia commission acted like Nazi police "Gestapo".
Written by Lee Min Keong, Contributor

KUALA LUMPUR--Malaysia's Ministry of Information Communication and Culture has rebuffed allegations the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) abused its power in controlling the new media and condemns comparisons to Adolph Hitler's secret Nazi police "Gestapo".

The ministry said in a statement Thursday the allegations showed that certain groups were attempting to tarnish the image and ridicule the commission as an independent body that regulates the country's Internet facilities and content.

"The ministry takes a serious view of the incorrect and baseless accusations. The commission acts based on the powers provided under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998," according to the statement, published in a report by the national news agency Bernama.

It noted that regulatory measures undertaken by the MCMC, Malaysia's ICT regulator, had always been "transparent, fair and balanced".

"In fact, the commission is an agency that upholds and protects government policies. This has been proven because to date, Malaysia is among the countries that do not impose any restriction on the Internet, except for Web sites that contain pornography, threats to the national security and fraud," the ministry said. It confirmed that certain sites had been closed through legal processes, in line with provisions under the Communications and Multimedia Act.

The ministry said comments by owners of Web sites that had accused the MCMC of purportedly closing down their sites and acting like Gestapo were "slanderous". "What had occurred on the day in question was a technical disruption that resulted in the Web sites concerned to be inaccessible to the public," it said.

It further advised these sites to refrain from writing articles not based on facts and that were slanderous, and called on the public not to be influenced by unfounded accusations.

The ministry did not specify the sites it referred to in its statement but in the past month, the MCMC has been accused of pulling the plug on Malaysia Today, a blog known for its anti-government stand.

The Commission had also been investigating online political news portal Malaysiakini over the posting of two allegedly offensive video clips. The political news site later refused to comply with a Sep. 3 order issued by the MCMC to remove the videos.

The investigation had generated a deluge of negative publicity for the government, including statements from international lobby groups describing the MCMC's action against Malaysiakini as "harassment".

Lee Min Keong is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.

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